Do you ever feel like you’re never not SUPER busy?
Or have an internal dialogue that goes something like this?:
“I’m just really busy right now, but after [current thing keeping you busy] calms down, I’ll have some downtime to focus on myself.”
… Then the thing keeping you busy ends, but somehow, there’s still not enough time in the day.
“Well, I WAS going to slow down, but then [new thing] came out of nowhere, so I’m still super busy. I’m a little stressed. But it’s just a phase. Once [new thing] is over, I’m taking some time to refresh and regroup.”
… Then the new thing ends, and guess what.
“Okay, I was supposed to take this time to put the brakes on but now [another thing!] came out of nowhere and now I’m super stressed and I can’t see an end to this! I feel like I’m falling further and further behind and I’ll never be above water again!”
If that’s what the voice in your head keeps saying, listen up: You’re not just busy. You’re feeling the strain of burnout.
New things will continue to come up to keep you “busy.” But that’s no different than how you’ve operated most of your life, is it?
Why is it that now, it’s suddenly all too much? Is there really more on your plate that you NEED to accomplish to be or feel successful?
Or is it something else?
The Difference Between Busy And Burnt Out
What’s the difference between busy and burnt out? There’s overlap, to be sure.
First, let’s look at being “so busy,” and the role that lifestyle plays in your sense of satisfaction, happiness, success, and wellbeing.
Stop for a sec and think about your standard MO (mode of operation). I bet you’ve always kept busy, right? If not busy with extracurricular activities, then busy with personal hobbies, fitness, reading, your career, maintaining your expertise on fill-in-the-blank … The things that make us “busy” are all the things that stimulate our brain to feel excitement, intrigue, expansion, possibility, happiness, and joy.
Busy can be negative sometimes, sure, and it can induce stress. But it’s not innately bad.
Burnout, on the other hand … Burnout feels different.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout arises when you find yourself chained to routines or lifestyle habits that keep you spinning in circles and don’t take you anywhere. They’re wearing you down without long-term reward.
While being busy can be dizzying, burnout is painful. The symptoms of burnout range from physical stressors (headaches, inflammation, fatigue, indigestion, heartburn, high blood pressure) to a notable decline in mental health, including depression, anxiety, and more.
Burnout extends beyond the workplace and begins to affect how you function in your home and personal life. It can be pretty serious, and unfortunately, not at all uncommon. A recent study conducted by jobfinder corporation Indeed found that 52% of us are experiencing burnout right now.
If you’re here, chances are you’re among that group.
What I’d like to do is jump right to the “why” that a lot of people don’t consider. These top lifestyle habits that lead to burnout are stress-builders sitting right under our noses, literally. They’re the routines we don’t think twice about falling into because they’ve just become such a way of life. They are an amalgamation of things you already know, but maybe haven’t considered just how severely they’re impeding your success and happiness.
So, what are the top lifestyle habits that lead to burnout? What I’m sharing with you here is what I see day in and day out with clients in my practice. These are the routines that hold us back while burning us out.
The Top 5 Lifestyle Habits That Lead To Burnout (and how to recover!)
1. Letting your phone lead your life | If pings and notifications rule your attention, your brain literally can’t get where it needs to go to grow. A 2017 study on the effects of interruption length on procedural errors in the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that individuals interrupted for just 2.8 seconds made twice as many errors as those who were uninterrupted.
Protect and be sacred with your attention. Put the phone in a drawer while you work, set it on silent while you work, and pop it face down somewhere where the vibration will not tempt you to pick it up.
Set boundaries! Let people know you are available to chat at certain times and reinforce that with your voicemail message. People respect boundaries more often than not, and it’s okay to have them!
2. Late night screen time | It’s rough on your body to lose out on sleep, but losing sleep to the screen has even greater ramifications. The blue light emitted by our devices stimulates the portion of your brain that suppresses melatonin production, leading to shorter, lower quality sleep even when you finally do close your eyes.
- Set a time of the day that you commit to having all screens off.
- Try to replace before-bed screen time with meditation, visualisation, or yoga.
- Put blue light filters on device screens to minimise absorption of light into your system—these are available on ebay and all new Macs have this as a built-in feature these days (go Mac).
- Install an app that lets you set timers to wake up or close windows.
Overall for this one – have digital detox and “mental health” days or times of day where people will learn not to expect you to be online. It alway takes time for people to adjust so just have patience, stick to your guns and all will be beautiful in the end.
3. Sporadic eating and dehydration | Neglecting to fuel yourself with plenty of water and good food sources of energy keep focus and concentration at bay, and leave you less capable of getting through each day without physical pain that can become chronic.
- Establish regularity to when you eat and drink.
- Stack habits. For example, drink 500ml with every meal, or drink a glass of water after you go to the loo. It will make hydrating yourself feel less like a chore.
- Making fun squashes or putting a squeeze of lemon in your water can help, too!
4. A work hard, play hard state | Living permanently in a “doing state” neglects to train the relaxation muscles (Yes, that’s a thing!). True relaxation comes in response to healthy—not body-building—exertion of the functional muscles we use to do everyday things our bodies were built for. So, not watching Netflix.
Here’s some fun science: Getting out in nature for 20 minutes can feel more relaxing and stress-reducing than watching a two-hour movie because our eyes have more green/blue receptors. It takes less effort for us to process a show put on by nature than by Netflix.
Schedule in relaxation time, meditation, and/or exercise into your diary. Protect it as you would a client appointment. Setting regular times of the day or week also helps to make this a no-brainer when the time comes, and you begin to get into a pattern of self care. This minimises the tendency we have to fight with ourselves when we think of “more important” things.
Remember that when you fill up your own cup, you overflow with energy to others. When you fail to fill your cup, you will end up drinking from others’.
5. Never switching off | If you try to be all things to all people all the time, you deny yourself the chance to be your own, or anyone else’s, inspiration. Think of this selfishly: Between two strangers on a plane, would you rather converse with someone who works 24/7 and has no time for anything else, or someone who’s just gone kayaking with seals in the Arctic? If you want to be an inspiring leader, be an inspiring person and commit to making space to do what excites you and fills your heart with happiness.
What brings you joy? Plan joyful activities at least every week, preferably every day. So something every day that makes you smile or laugh. Note what you enjoy and do it often. What can you cut this week from your schedule? Just one thing a week will make a huge difference over time.
See how none of theseTop 5 Lifestyle Habits That Lead To Burnout really qualify as keeping you “busy”?
The lifestyle habits above produce a mind/body/spiritual residue that gunks up our ability to effectively pursue, and sometimes even SEE, where we want to go.
When we can no longer see a path toward becoming who/what we desire, we lose hope. We feel a sense of “what’s the point?” around the things we spend our time on. We question our life choices.
That feeling, my friend, is burnout.
From Burnout To Balance | How to Recover from Burnout
It is largely because we’ve fallen so deeply into these routines—too many routines—that don’t serve our growth. That’s not to say that scrolling TikTok is all bad (I have only great things to say about #PupperTok)! But when we spend a disproportionate amount of time on a multitude of growth-limiting lifestyle habits, we find ourselves looking up from our phone to see that it’s 3 p.m. and we’ve not done a thing we intended to do to take care of ourselves, to revive our drive.
Then we feel guilty. Fatigued. Disappointed. Anxious at the mounting pressure we put on ourselves to do more and figure it out and somehow make up for it tomorrow.
That’s not just busy. That is burnt. Out.
I think I’ve gone on enough about burnout for today, but I have to say, there’s SO much more I want to share with you, if you’ll have me.
In my 10+ years as a yoga teacher and wellness business coach, in creating my 4 Pillars of Happiness method it seemed like some clients needed something first – before they can think about realising their vision. Lots of people were asking for practices to reconnect and ground themselves and essentially recover from various unrecognised stages of burnout. So if that’s your jam then keep an eye on this up coming content – it’s an insight into the Burnout Recovery Yoga system designed to help you bounce back from burnout for good.
Now, it’s all very exciting because I’m beginning to take things digital, so you can apply it wherever you are. This modality is holistic and focuses on lifestyle habits, mindset as well as embodied practices like yoga asana (poses) and pranayama (breathwork).
We’re going to begin with the end in mind: SUCCESS. YOUR success. A very personal, critical-to-your-wellbeing version of success is the very thing burnout will try to steal from you.
Today, let me guide you through your Success Visualisation.
Visualisation is the science of creating possibilities, which is So. Important. Whether you’re on the brink of burnout or you’ve fully succumbed, the practice of visualising your success will move you forward.
The brain doesn’t know the difference between a real or imagined scenario, so if you want to get good at realising your dreams, or honing your vision of what success looks like for you, then practice first with visualisation. Practice makes perfect. What have you got to lose?
If there’s one thing you do for yourself today, let it be this. In five minutes, you’ll feel lighter, stronger, more relaxed, and more ready for … well, for YOU.
You better be—there’s a LOT in store for your future, free-er, “living my best life” self. 😉
In my next post, I’ll get way more into the science of visualisation. It truly is one of the most simple yet powerful tools within your wellbeing arsenal.
I can’t wait to have you back here!
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Cat founded Nine Lives Yoga in 2012 and has since worked with over 25,000 clients across 11 countries from speaking to hosting retreats to diving deeper with clients through her coaching course. She lives in Brighton where she loves to go running over the South Downs with her dog, and paddleboard into the sunset.